Homage To The Deceased, Offerings to Spirits in New Exhibits in Phnom Penh

The latest exhibitions at Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center and Meta House pay respect to the spirits of the departed.

Artist Than Sok opened on Monday his first solo show, “Tragedy” at Bophana, which includes more than 100 spirit houses made out of incense sticks while Meta House is recreating the 2006 exhibit, “A Good Friend Is Hard to Find,” an homage to curator and the late cofounder of the Reyum Institute, Ingrid Muan, by the late artist Svay Ken, which started yesterday.

Lydia Parusol, art director at Meta House, said the show is dedicated to the strong and deep friendship between Ms Muan and Mr Ken.

“They were two people who came from completely different backgrounds but they shared a common language of art,” she said.

“A Good Friend,” created after Ms Muan died from medical complication following a dog bite in 2005, is unaltered from its first showing at Reyum more than four years ago but the artist, Mr Ken, passed away early last year.

“The exhibit is a mix of things,” Ms Parusol said of “A Good Friend.” “It’s Cambodian art and culture, the work of Ingrid Muan and Svay Ken and the progress of Reyum,” she said, adding that 10 portraits by Mr Ken will also be shown at Meta House at the same time.

Erin Gleeson, curator of “Tragedy” at Bophana said 25-year-old artist Than Sok is a graduate of the Reyum Art School and has completed two experimental workshops with Reyum, which broaden his artistic instincts.

“Tragedy” is composed of more than 100 uniform spirit houses constructed from 100 incense sticks. Construction took a little more than a month and the artist enlisted his brother to help him with construction, Ms Gleeson said.

“He even had his sister draw his blood and he marked five of the houses to represent his five siblings,” Ms Gleeson explained.

Although all of the houses look alike, Mr Sok set fire to and destroyed each one differently. Ms Gleeson said the construct of the houses represents human’s need for happiness and success but the varying destruction of the houses represented human suffering and the impossibility of people living identical lifestyles.

Ms Gleeson said Mr Sok has worked with spirit houses before. He’s created video art of the houses burning and dropped them off a wall for a previous project.

The building of structures is also fitting for Mr Sok who is also a second-year architecture student, Ms Gleeson added.

“It’s related to his study,” she said. “It’s very complimentary.”


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